A VIRGIN IN THE PHILIPPINES
With illustrations by LEONARDO MALGAPO
‘A Virgin in the Philippines’ by WH Johnson is available as an E-book on Amazon UK and Amazon.com
You don’t need a Kindle to read this book. You can download Amazon’s free e-reading apps for PCs, Macs, i-Pods and smartphones.
… Three years ago I’d never given a thought to visiting the Philippines. It wouldn’t have appeared in even my top hundred places to visit. Come to that, I’d never thought of re-marrying …
So starts Johnnie Johnson’s Philippines travelogue, more a diary of a two-month stay than a guide book.
Johnnie found Manila a city of confusing contrasts.
… Even the bill boards are the size of upended tennis courts, advertising everything from ‘exclusive residential developments’ to skin whitening products and top of the range automobiles. As you sit in yet another stuttering file of traffic the street vendors – just young children, some of them – their faces sometimes masked in a futile protection against the almost tangible pollution, come down the aisle between the cars offering drinks, plastic toys, bags of sweets, biscuits and newspapers. They probably come from the sprawling squatter settlements, the shelters rudely constructed of rusted corrugated iron, bamboo and plywood, all seeming to lean companionably one upon the other, straggling and sprawling down the sloping hillsides to the edge of some or other polluted river where they hang precariously above the surface of the water …
But he is off to a rural area of the Luzon region where it’s the beauty of the rice fields which captivate him.
… Most wonderful were those fields where the shoots had reached about eight inches above the water. Had you seen it in a painting you would have complained that the colour was just too green, too bright …
Johnnie spent much of his time at his wife’s home in Papaya, a small town in Nueva Ecija.
… My morning walk provides nothing new in the way of experiences: the country air tainted by diesel fumes; the usual small heaps of swept-up burning leaves and twigs on verges and in gutters; the friendly calls of ‘Hi, Joe’; a man, gently cradling a fighting cock, walks across the road while a motorcyclist, steering with one hand, clutches his baby against his breast with the other, and two young boys – his sons? – share the pillion seat; a tractor pulls a wagon, its sole occupant a water buffalo, and it is cut up by an overloaded jeepney whose mud-flapped slogan simply says ‘Jesus Christ’, and the water buffalo’s look of disdain seems to echo those words; a woman sweeps dust into the unmade road, and continues her sweeping there, dust to dust, a thankless and pointless task, but she pauses and smiles, ‘Good morning, po,’ she says …
Mike George, author of ‘California – or Bust,’ sums it up:
‘Really at his age this writer ought to know better. But he doesn’t. He just goes on enjoying himself. This is no travel guide. It’s an account of an experience by a man who has married a mature Filipina, a lady clearly younger and more attractive than his undeniably young-at-heart self. Johnnie and her male relatives join forces to form an Escape Committee to organise a Boys’ Night Out; innately impractical, he locks himself for several hours in a mosquito-ridden garage; he comments on the work being done at the family mausoleum; he rides tricycles side-saddle through traffic hells; and brazenly performs karaoke for the first time and loves it. But despite all of the knock-about in this book there is a deal of close observation of a rural community in central Luzon. And it’s a joy to read.’